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Delhi Games hit by sponsor blow
Two state companies withdraw their support over 'negative publicity' as time runs short.
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2010 12:54 GMT
Opposition party activists protested this month over the corruption allegations [EPA]

The uncertainty over the Commonwealth Games in Delhi increased with the news that two state-run firms have withdrawn their sponsorship of the event over "negative publicity".

With time running out before the Games – which feature 72 national teams drawn largely from former members of the British Empire and now part of the Commonwealth agreement between nations – India is already struggling to complete venues on time and has been hit by a series of controversies.

The country, which hopes to showcase its growing global clout by staging a successful Games, is relying on state-run firms for sponsorship as private companies have largely stayed away.

The October 3-14 Games are also facing serious corruption charges, which has led to protests and the suspension of three senior officials, while the treasurer has quit following a contract row

The country's biggest power producer, NTPC Ltd, has decided to scrap its 500 million rupees ($11 million) sponsorship deal and is seeking an audit of the 200 million rupees it has already paid.

"Our board has decided not to go ahead with the sponsorship because of the negative publicity," NTPC Chairman and Managing Director R S Sharma told the Reuters news agency on Thursday.

State-run transmission utility Power Grid Corp of India has also decided to back out of its 100 million rupees commitment to the Games, its Chairman S K Chaturvedi said.

A spokesman for the Games organising committee was not immediately available for comment.

Spiralling costs

The event, the cost of which has risen more than 17 times over its initial estimates, lost its merchandising partner last week when the Indian company pulled out citing an inordinate delay in launching the products.

A government anti-corruption agency has identified 16 Games projects where large-scale irregularities are suspected while the state audit agency questioned the process followed in engaging some of the consultants.

With the event threatening to become a national embarrassment and tarnishing the image of the ruling Congress party, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ordered probes into
the corruption charges after a stock-taking meeting on Saturday.

Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Thursday echoed Singh's views in her address to the party parliamentarians.

"The success of the Games is that of our country – not of any party or any individual...The prestige of the nation is involved," she said.

"I trust that as soon as the Games is over, the government will look into the allegations of malpractice and spare no one found to be involved in them."

The last Games were held four years ago in Melbourne, Australia.

Approximately 4,500 athletes competed in 247 events across 16 sports.

Australia topped the medals table followed by England – who compete separately from Great Britain as do Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales – Canada and India.

Source:
Agencies
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